September 27, 2023

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Astronomers detect a mysterious “coiled” galaxy

Astronomers detect a mysterious “coiled” galaxy

Researchers have come across a special galaxy wrapped in a cosmic “ribbon”. Although such “polar ring galaxies” are still classified as rare, they may be more common than previously thought.

About 56 million light-years from Earth we find spiral galaxy NGC 4632. Until now, astronomers thought this was a fairly ordinary spiral galaxy, but… New study Now the opposite is remarkably proven. It turns out that the system is wrapped in a cosmic “ribbon”, and therefore – with a little imagination – it looks like a gift.

With the help of Australian square kilometer matrix Using the ASKAP radio telescope, researchers discovered a ring of gas around NGC 4632. The fact that researchers have only noticed this ring now is that it is only visible at radio wavelengths. The ring orbits the galaxy at right angles to its spiral disk, wrapped like a gift in a ribbon of cosmic gas, dust and stars.

A composite image of the polar ring galaxy NGC 4632. The image shows a ring of gas rotating perpendicularly around the main spiral disk of the galaxy. Photo: Jayann English (U. of Manitoba), Nathan Deeg (Queens U.) and Wallaby Survey, CSIRO/ASKAP, NAOJ/Subaru Telescope

Polar ring
According to researchers, the new discovery puts NGC 4632 in a rare class of galaxies. For example, NGC 4632 may be a so-called “polar ring galaxy.” These are some of the most fascinating galaxies in the universe but they are also among the most mysterious. In specific terms, this is a particular type of galaxy in which a ring of material — dust, gas, and stars — orbits around or near the poles of the galaxy. This means that the polar annular galaxy ring extends in a nearly perpendicular direction above or below the central galaxy, rather than in the same plane as the central galaxy as in more common spiral or elliptical galaxies.

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The second discovery
By the way, NGC 4632 is not the only polar ring galaxy discovered recently. “Of the 600 galaxies we examined, we identified two with polar rings,” says co-author Barbil Korybalski. Although astronomers have observed polar ring galaxies before, these are the first two galaxies discovered using the ASKAP telescope. Perhaps many more will follow. “Our ASKAP radio telescope is providing a stream of data, and we are ready for it,” Korybalski continues. “With ASKAP, we expect to detect more than 200,000 hydrogen-rich galaxies in the coming years, including many unusual galaxies like NGC 4632.”

Although polar ring galaxies are still classified as very rare, researchers suspect that they may be more common than previously thought. “Our findings suggest that between 1 and 3 percent of nearby galaxies may contain polar rings,” says astrophysicist Nathan Degg of Queen’s University in Canada. “This is a much higher percentage than optical telescopes indicate.” This means that polar ring galaxies may be much more numerous than scientists initially expected.

Why the polar rings exist is a mystery. One possible explanation is that the stellar rings, which appear to blend in with the gas clouds, are made up of material coming from a passing galaxy. Another possibility is that hydrogen gas flows along the threads of the cosmic web and then accumulates in a ring around the galaxy. New stars can form during this process.

However, more research is needed to expand our understanding of polar ring galaxies. This could have important implications. For example, one leading hypothesis about the origin of polar rings suggests that such phenomena arise from a merger, in which a larger galaxy swallows a smaller galaxy. If galaxies with polar rings turn out to be more common than researchers previously thought, this could indicate that such mergers also occur in the universe more frequently than previously thought.

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Most common
The new study provided interesting new insights. Researcher Lester Staveley-Smith said: “These new observations from ASKAP, which reveal striking ring-like structures around apparently normal spiral galaxies, suggest that gas accumulation through interactions with gas-rich companion galaxies is much more common than we previously thought.” . “So our survey will be a great resource for discovering more of these systems in the future.”

Dark matter
But not only that. In the future, polar ring galaxies could also serve as a valuable tool for expanding our understanding of the universe, with specific applications in dark matter research. For example, it is possible to use polar rings to study the presence of dark matter in a galaxy, which could provide new insight into the mysterious properties of this elusive matter.

But this is not the case yet. The team’s next step is to confirm the existence of the two newly discovered polar ring galaxies with additional observations using different telescopes. For example, a new look at galaxies should be provided by the MeerKAT radio telescope, one of the most advanced radio telescopes in the world that makes an important contribution to our understanding of the universe.